Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Top 25 Power Pop Releases of 2013

Some great releases this year.  Notable return performances from prior year stars (though some larger established artist remained silent ).   All in all, a balanced set that ranged across the many subgenre's of Power Pop.  Here is my "Best of" list in order and here's looking towards 2014....

  1. Electric Soft Parade - Idiots
    I think I've already been pretty public about what I think of this terrific album.  Looking for Fountains of Wayne, Teenage Fanclub goodness?  Look no further.  A classic record, start to finish.  Get it!
  2. Corin Ashley - New Lion Terraces
    This one was a big surprise.  Former Pills lead singer Ashley already had produced one solo album music in the chamber pop subgenre. His 2013 release "New Lion Terraces" pushes all the Power Pop buttons.  Great songs with great production by Ducky Carlisle.  One of the year's best.
  3. And the Professors - Our Postmortem 
    I can't stop listening to this side project from the Honeydog's Adam Levy.  This one started as an engineering teaching project but the addition of strings turns singer Levy's pop songs in a new direction.  Thanks to Jenny McClintock for her post on the Jellyfish listserv that alerted me to this one. 
  4. Wyatt Funderburk - Novel and Profane
    Love this album from the former Second Saturday singer songwriter. Tight production and rockin hooks that never let up.  This album seemed as close to a classic Owsley record as we could expect in 2013.  More of this Wyatt...
  5. Adam Daniel - Pop, Baby
    surprise return to Power Pop from Adam Daniel after years producing folky AOR.  Lots of killer pop hooks on this one, some with a radio friendly gloss.  
  6. Eric Barao - Eric Barao
    I did not know the solo work from Cautions lead singer Eric Barao, but this effort grazes as far into Jellyfish territory as anything else this year.   From the credits, its obvious that Barao is chums with Bleu and Duckly Carlilse.  His solo debut is beautifully recorded as a result.
  7. The Nines - The Nines
    It sounds like the latest collection of great Nines tracks started life as another odds and ends collection, but Steve Eggers organized it into a wide ranging pop record. Great album.  Loads of great songs here. I never miss anything that Steve puts out.  
  8. Josh Rouse - The Happiness Waltz
    The Happiness Waltz as a welcome return to pop form from his generation's Paul Simon. This album had so many great pop songs that it made my Power Pop list.  I recommend this one even though the vibe is typical Rouse AOR.
  9. Joel Sarakula - The Golden Age
    Didn't know anything about Joel Sarakula, but his album was a surprise best for this year.  Sarakula belts out a variety of catchy tunes in a Bowie-esque baritone.  At times this album sounds like Parthenon Huxley left his stamp.
  10. Valley Lodge - Use Your Weapons
    Valley Lodge is back with a Cheap Trick style blast of Power Pop.  This one rocks hard though the second half of the CD seemed poppier to me than the first.
  11. Greg Pope - Popmotion Animation
    The "Pop Monster" returns with another brief but quality collection of twangy Power Pop tracks.   Always glad to hear whatever projects Greg is working on.  This was a yet another great one.
  12. Parthenon Huxley - Thank You Bethesda
    A Parthenon Huxley release is cause to celebrate. This one rocks hard as Hux moves back east from years in California. An over-the-top cover of his own 70's classic Buddha Buddha is the cornerstone of this release.
  13. Agony Aunts  - Big Cinnamon
    It seems that KC Bowman has determined that he needs to mix up his patented quirky Power Pop songs with vocals from other singers.  Agony Aunts is his latest project with members of the Corner Laughers. Lots of great KC Bowman fun here.
  14. Lisa Mychols  - Above, Beyond; In Between
    Lisa cranks out another collection of contemporary Power Pop meets 60's girl groups.  The hits never let up on this one. Each tune better than the next. An essential listen.
  15. Jim Boggia - Ample Seating Available 
    Boggia revisits his fabulous back catalog with this live album.  Great recordings and the songs!  The songs!  Don't know Jim Boggia, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up.
  16. Tor Guides - Lots Of the Pops Volume 1
    This is the best example of Swedish Power Pop this year.  Great album, I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly it was released after last year's "Strawberries & Chocolates".
  17. Mike Viola - Ghoul
    It's a trading card game! It's also a sampler of the super-prolific pop star's many projects in the music business in LA!  This virtual release by favorite Viola is frankly a bit all over the place. Still it's Mike and that means that there are lots of stellar moments here.  It's worth playing Mike's game....
  18. Bob Evans - Familiar Stranger
    The fourth solo release by Kevin Mitchell, lead singer of the Australian band Jebediah.  This one has a glossy synthy sheen of the moment but you find yourself humming the songs very quickly.
  19. The Contrast -  A Sinister Flick
    The Contrast always takes me back to the early days of REM and the first couple of albums by the Smithereens.   This latest release is not as concise as 2010's "God of Malfunction", still the Contrast specialty is producing 3 minute rock songs and there are lots of good ones here.
  20. Brendan Benson - You Were Right
    This year Brendan Benson released a series of singles.  This album collects them all and adds to them for a surprisingly coherent listen.
  21. Richard X. Heyman - X
    I've been a big Richard X. Heyman fan from the beginning and the latest song cycle from Heyman doesn't disappoint.  For fans of Costello, Nick Lowe....
  22. The Sun Sawed in Half - Elephants in Swan
    Always great to hear "The Sun Sawed in Half" pull together their unique brand of Jellyfish oriented pop. Always worth a listen.
  23. David Brookings - The Maze
    Former Memphis based singer songwriter David Brookings has relocated to California (there is a theme here) and has a new album for us.  This guy always brings me back to the days of early dB's, Let's Active, Don Dixon.
  24. Vegas with Randolph - Rings Around The Sun
    It seems like this collection came together over the last year and a half as a collection of pop singles.  That's the way it listens to me but it doesn't make it any less of an essential listen.
  25. The Grapes of Wrath - High Road
    Canadian band "The Grapes of Wrath" have reformed and released a new album.   It's still hard to secure a copy in the states but well worth trying to do so.  This one seems a bit over produced to my ears but there are some great tunes on it.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Cliff Hillis - Demos and Tribute Tracks

As we get close to compiling this years best Power Pop releases, I've been looking backwards to last years best list and was horrified to find that I forgot to feature one of my favorite albums of 2012 Cliff Hillis's "Dream Good".  What a great album -  from start to finish. Should have easily been in my top ten.  

Cliff Hillis is an under-appreciated anchor of the Power Pop world.   Along with co-leader Dennis Schocket, Hillis was a key singer and songwriter for the Baltimore based Starbelly, who put out two classic releases. He was also a sideman in the latest John Faye power pop project "Ike"  Each of his three solo albums have been great throughout.   Whenever I start listening to his 2008 effort, "The Long Now" It stays in the play list for months. Its that good!

As usual, to show my support, I've put together a compilation of b-side, demos and tribute tracks from Cliff.  Great stuff all.  Support this great artist,  He truly deserves it.   A top tier Power Pop talent.

1 Welcome to You (Bluegrass Style)
2 Down in the Basement (Outtake)
3 Dizzy (From Bubblegum Tribute: Right to Chews)
4 Can't Feel My Soul (From Teenage Fanclub Tribute: What a Concept)
5 This One (From McCartney Tribute: Coming Up)
6 I Saw The Light (From In the Pocket Project featuring Cliff)
7 Shake It (From Monsters of Light Rock Tribute)
8 Elevator (Instrumental Version)
9 Woah Yeah (Demo)
10 Start Again (Demo)
11 On a Day Like Christmas (From Its About Christmas Compilation)
12 What's Your Name (Demo)
13 Theme From Breezeway (Demo)
14 Consequence (Cassette Demo)
15 I Want My Baby Back Ribs (Ad)
16 Ice Cream (Ad)
17 Boulevard of Broken Dreams
18 IDEAL Jingle (Ad)
19 Grounded (Live at Bopptopia)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Electric Soft Parade - Demos and Radio Performances of Idiots

It has been 6 years since Brighton's Electric Soft Parade has released a full length album.  That album came out earlier this summer.  It is called "Idiots" and it is a masterstroke. Perhaps the most consistently brilliant release I've heard this year, the album hits hard with clever hooks and never lets up.   It features co-leaders Thomas and Alex White particular brand of prog influenced pop.   Lots of hooks, lots of key changes, some strange instrumental breaks and brilliant production.  This time the brother's White have found expression for their alternative sides on the solo releases they put out over the last few years.   They have pulled all of their pop material into Idiots.    I really can't recommend this release enough.  Simply brilliant!

For the lucky owners of the release, I've pulled together some recent radio performances, a couple of demos and a bonus track that didn't make the album.  Consider this a set off extra bonus tracks.   For the uninitiated, listen to these tracks as a taste of what the real release is all about.   Idiots is out everywhere.  No excuse to not pickup one of the finest releases of the year.

1 Summertime in My Heart (Live on BBC)
2 Idiots (Live on BBC)
3 Number One (Live on BBC)
4 Lilly (Demo)
5 1969 (Bonus Track)
6 The Corner of Highdown and Montefiore (Live on BBC)
7 Brother, You Must Walk Your Path Alone (Live on BBC)
8 One Of Those Days (Live on BBC)
9 Welcome to the Weirdness (Demo)
10 We Don't Have to Fight Anymore (Older Demo)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

David Myhr - Live at PDOL

Lots of signals telling me that summer is running down in the northern hemisphere and I'm going to miss it.  For me the Power Pop soundtrack of the summer has been the new one by The Electric Soft Parade, called Idiots.  Idiots is truly a pop masterpiece and an easy contender for the best Power Pop release of the year.   Though I'm collecting rare tracks to complement that album (and could use any help you could offer), I've been trying to keep summer alive by spinning tracks from one of last summer's favorite release Soundshine by David Myhr.  I've been listening quite a bit to the soundtrack to a live concert that David released last year entitled "Live at PDOL".

I don't post a lot of live shows because I tend to appreciate a professionally mixed set.  This concert fits the bill.  Its immaculately recorded and features some of the best tracks from SoundShine, my favorite Power Pop release from 2012. Enjoy.

1 Cut to the Chase
2 I Love The Feeling
3 Don't Say No
4 Never Mine
5 Looking For a Life
6 Get It Right
7 Got You Where He Wanted
8 Wanderlust
9 Loveblind

Monday, July 29, 2013

Adam Daniel - Songs From The Wilderness

Lots of justifiable excitement about the new release from Adam Daniel.  After a 14 year hiatus, Daniel has put together a worthy follow up to 1999's touchstone Power Pop album "Blue Pop".   Coming out of nowhere "Blue Pop" was an instant classic exercising a 3 minute pop sensibility (similar to Fountains of Wayne) in a more melancholy singer songwriter setting.  

This years effort "Pop, Baby" is a long awaited return to form.   It features a mix of smart rockers and AOR ballads.   A very nice album and  a surprise after 14 years.   During that time,  Adam put out two official releases, "The Adam Daniel Frequency" and the "Where You Are EP".  Both were collections of rough sounding demos.   Some great material on these however neither was ever rerecorded and mixed  professionally.

During his time "in the wilderness", Adam occasionally featured a stream of a fully mixed track on his website.   I've collected some of those tracks in the compilation here.  The compilation features two tracks left off, of the classic "Blue Pop" album,  a b-side rocker and a number of AOR style tracks that represented a direction that Adm was exploring during that time (many of them quite nice). 

Enjoys these tracks but be sure to pick up "Pop Baby".   It's sure to end up on lots of best Power Pop lists this year..

1 These Shy Things (Early Version) - Folky version of new album track (I like this version better than the new album's)
2 Always All About You - B-side from "Dream Out Loud"
3 Finally Asleep - Bonus track from "Blue Pop".  Recently featured on SoundCloud.
4 Everywhere - Bonus track from "Blue Pop"
5 Downhill Racing - Folky track
6 Scarred - R and B Track
7 She's Elegant - Folky Track
8 Home To You - Folky Track
9 Come Alive - Track from Adam's side project the Flutterbies
10 When It's Over 
- Folky Track
11 These Shy Things - Solo acoustic demo of new album track

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Grapes of Wrath - B-Sides and Bonus Tracks

There has been quite a bit of buzz in the Power Pop world about the new Grapes of Wrath album "High Road" and for good reason.  The Canadian band has reformed after a 13 year hiatus and have delivered a compelling power pop effort that's strong throughout.  Co-leaders Tom Hooper and Kevin Kane have again buried past differences (they had a brief reunion in 2000 for the album Field Trip) and have come together with an effort that leverages the best of the Grapes trademark jangle sound.   As I write this, High Road has only been released in Canada but non-Canadians can still get the album.  We can stream the effort from the CBC here.....but you will like what you hear and can buy downloads here.

In honor of the effort, I've assembled a collection of B-sides and bonus tracks.   The collection features a number of tracks from the rare bonus EP that accompanied 2000's  album "Field Trip".  A number are rearrangements of previously released Grapes tracks from the 1990's.   A few are covers.  Three of the tracks are from the album "Suddenly I Came To My Senses" by Ginger.   Ginger was Tom Hooper's effort after Kevin Kane left the band the first time.   I've included the most "jangly" from that effort. 

1 All the Things I Wasn't - Alternate Version from the "Field Trip" Bonus Disc
2 Down So Close - from B-Side of "You May Be Right"
3 See Emily Play - Pink Floyd Cover from the B-Side of "All The Time"
4 Misunderstanding - Alternate Version from the "Field Trip" Bonus Disc
5 All The Time - B-side of "I Am Here"
6 What I Need - From Ginger LP "Suddenly I Came To My Senses"
7 99 Miles from LA - Albert Hammond Cover from the "Field Trip" Bonus Disc
8 Let Me Roll It - McCartney Cover from the B-side to "What Was Going Through My Head"
9 Everything's Funny - From Ginger LP "Suddenly I Came To My Senses"
10 What Was Going Through My Head - Alternate Version from Field Trip Bonus Disc
11 FID's Theme - 1990 Demo
12 Summertime - From Ginger LP "Suddenly I Came To My Senses"
13 Backward Town - B-side from "Do You Want to Tell Me"
14 Porpoise Song - Monkee's Cover from the "Field Trip" Bonus Disc

Enjoy the compilation but I recommend getting the new album.   Great effort.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Plasticsoul - Demos of the New Album

Just like everyone else, I've been digging into the terrific compilation "Drink A Toast To Innocence: A Tribute To Lite Rock".    What a great album!  Certainly one of the highlights of the year so far.   While listening to the Fleetwod Mac track "Sentimental Lady" covered by Plasticsoul, I started wondering where Plasticsoul leader Steven Wilson was towards completing his new album.   

For the unitiated, Plasticsoul released one of the best Power Pop releases of 2008.  "Peacock Swagger" was a broad ranging album exploring mid-period Beatles territory similar to Cotton Mather.   Wilson and producer Brandon Schott have been trickling out demos of their new album for the last couple of years.  Here is a compilation of those tracks.  They sound great,  but I'm looking forward to the finished versions.

1 Kicks Like a Mule
2 Everything's Green
3 Good For Me
4 Tough Priest
5 Beth
6 Round She Goes
7 The Western Lands
8 Get Along
9 My Heavy Soul
10 That's When It All Goes Down
11 Angel, You're Right

Monday, March 4, 2013

Pillbugs - Marikesh "Love Is What You Want"

I'm a recent Pillbugs convert, largely due to the tireless efforts of Power Pop blog guru Mick Dillingham. The Akron, Ohio based band has a trippy Power Pop meets Psychodalia sound approximating XTC's "Dukes of Stratosphere" side project.  Some great songs in there. All of the Pillbug releases are well worth your time.  Highly recommended. What follows is an anonymous guest post of an early Pillbugs side project. Thanks friend for sharing this rare find...

In the late 1970s Mark Mikel and two childhood friends, Scott Tabner &; Ian McCormack formed a neighborhood garage band that eventually became Marikesh.  Marikesh released two singles prior to the 1985 release of their only lp, “Love Is What You Want,” which was recorded & produced in Mikel’s home studio.

Over the next few years Mikel continued recording in his studio, occasionally able to pull together the other band members, but new Marikesh material was not forthcoming.  At some point Marikesh ceased to exist and Mark, along with another friend, Mark Kelley, formed a new group: the Mark Mikel Hallucination – which also included Dave Murnen & Dan Chalmers.  The home recordings continued.  After a series of lead guitarists, the Hallucination added Scott Tabner and The Pillbugs were born.

This post contains the “Love Is What You Want” lp (no cd re-issue yet) one side of one of the pre-lp 45’s (Crazy on Cristmas (sic)), and several unreleased home recordings.  For comparison’s sake, much of the Marikesh material tends to the heavier side of the Pillbugs (similar to the first, self-titled, Pillbugs cd), but their flower-power popsike would fit comfortably on “3-Dimensional In-Popcycle Dream.”  Best of all, as it was recorded at home with Mikel producing, there’s no attempt to approximate the Steve Lillywhite-drum sound so prevalent at the time.  If anyone has the other three 45 sides (Rock Garden/The Sky and Look) please let me know.

1 The Dr. F's Creation
2 Onto the Sea of Sound
3 Love is What You Want
4 Taking On a Day
5 Sam The Computer
6 Frogtown
7 The Policeman Can
8 When I Grow Up Ill Be a Spy
9 Mother's Eyes No. 1
10 If Someday Was Tomorrow
11 Standing Still
12 Lend Me a Flower
13 Everybody's Driving in the Rain
14 Mother's Eyes No. 2
15 Judy's Aquarium
16 She's The Girl
17 Capitol L-O-V-E
18 Don't Be Afraid
19 Where Have You Been
20 I'm Sorry Bad About You
21 Together
22 The Drive
23 Crazy on Christmas

Friday, February 22, 2013

Blinker The Star - Truly Back

Last year year Blinker the Star leader Jordon Zadorozny came back with his first album in 9 years "We Draw Lines". The album was a fine effort and made my top 25 of the year, a partial return to the Power Pop sound he debuted in the the classic album "August Everywhere", one of the best single releases of the 90's. Also in 2012, Zadorozny finally released his long standing duo project with fellow Canadian singer Sofia Silva entitled Abbey. The Abbey effort sounds very much like Blinker the Star featuring a female singer and is well worth checking out.

This year, Blinker the Star has already released yet another album though this one is actually a set of new and old b-sides. The album, "Songs From Laniakea Beach" mixes b-sides left off of last year's "We Draw Lines" with older demo tracks from as long ago as 1999. Many of these were available for download on an earlier version of the band's website. I compiled many of these tracks in an earlier compilation and they still stand up extremely well. I recommend that you pick up classics like Persia, The River and Flex Your Little Claws. The new mixes sound great in high bit rate downloads from Bandcamp.

Here is a collection of even more rare b-sides not on any official release. Let me know if you have any rare tracks I'm missing and go out and support Jordon Zadorozny. He's truly back.

1 Take Your Love - Unreleased demo from "We Draw Lines"
2 By The Light of a Magical Moon - T-Rex Cover
3 Brown and Furry - Demo with guest vocals by ex-Medicine vocalist Brad Laner
4 Last Night's Parade - Demo by side project Abbey, using similar chord changes to "Take Your Love"
5 Sous Les Portes Coulisantes - B-side. A French language version of "Below the Sliding Doors"
6 Misunderstanding - Genesis Cover
7 Crazy Eyes - Demo of "August Everywhere" track
8 Transona 5 - B-side from 1996. Stereolab cover.
9 Strange As They Say - Live version of "Below the Sliding Doors" track
10 Live By The Gun - Live version of track from "Still in Rome"
11 Below the Sliding Doors - Live version
12 Protection - Dance track from a recent Jordon side project

Sunday, January 27, 2013

David Myhr - Bonus Tracks and Covers

2013 is off to a strong start.  Weeks into the year, there are already a number of exciting releases.   I'm excited about the releases from Jim Boggia, The Sun Sawed in 1/2 and Josh Rouse.  Also excited about the demos from Plasticsoul and Joe Giddings....but I can't let 2012 go quite yet, and have still been listening to a bunch of bonus tracks and covers from my favorite David Myhr.

In the spirit of Power Pop legends or old, David has been extremely generous with the bonus tracks and "web released" covers.   The 11 tracks assembled here serve as a nice complement to 2012's official release "Soundshine".   If you haven't heard that album, you're in for a treat.   If you've been following David at his Facebook page or Blog, then you've already heard much of what I've assembled here.  Consider this collection a convenience and a reminder to go back and support the return of one of the worlds best Power Pop artists! (This second version of the compilation now includes the great track "Record Collection".)

1 Never Mine - New slower version recorded at Abbey Road
2 Record Collection - Japanese bonus track (Thanks much to a friend for this one!)
3 Happy New Year - Acoustic cover of an Abba track
4 Euphoria - David records the winner of a student composition contest. Not a bad track!
5 The Things We Do For Love - Early mix of a 10cc cover
6 Boom Boom Beat - Japanese bonus track
7 Jaded - Acoustic cover of a Mommyheads track
8 Looking For a Life - Mankind remix
9 Wildflowers - Acoustic cover of a Tom Petty track
10 Never Mine - Stripped down version
11 Looking for a Life - Acoustic radio version